Apps that can help with your mental health [Part 2]

Apps, Review

This is a continuation of my post about apps that can help with your mental health. The first post focused more on peer to peer support apps, while this post will focus more on apps that provide tools that can help you manage some mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression. Some of these apps have the peer to peer support element as well.

1. Happify

Happify is an app that has science-based activities and games that can help with managing your stress, anxiety or depression.

You sign up, and it asks you some questions about yourself.

And then it asks a few more questions about yourself, but it’s more about your mood or how you face adversity and stuff like that.

Happify has lessons in the form of activities and games. You can choose to just free play or follow specific tracks. I chose the track Conquer Your Negative Thoughts, because it was free, while most tracks are paid.

The games are very simple and some times cookie cutter with a twist. For example, in Uplift you just tap on positive words, while in Negative Knockout you are essentially playing Angry Birds but knocking out negative words. The assets for the games are only downloaded when you select them, so it keeps the app size manageable.

While some lessons are more like activities. For example, in Walk in Their Shoes you are encouraged to well walk in someone else’s shoes and see how they live their life. Yes, that would require you to go out and interact with real life human beings. Tough, at least for me.

While another activity encourages Savouring. Savouring is actually one of the techniques I learned from the well-being class that can make you happier. The well-being class encouraged me to go outside and savor there, while this app allows you to pick a serene scene and savor in the comforts of your own home.

Another activity allows you to discover your signature strengths. I already took the test before for the well-being class, and as a rewirement challenge then, I was able to use my signature strength for week. But I retook the quiz on Happify anyway. But because Happify really wanted to push its monetization, it will only show me 3 of my signature strengths, the other 2 I need to pay for, which I didn’t.

You can also chose if you want to keep your progress private or public in the Community Mode. The Community Mode is the peer to peer aspect of Happify. So you basically you can share your progress with the community and they can like and comment on it. There are also forums that you can take part in.

Another sort of random feature of Happify is that it has Contests. So when you complete lessons, you get points, and when you earn a certain number of points you can join their different monthly draws. They also have these Daily Feed that includes some seemingly random articles.

Happify is monetized through subscription based Premium Features.

What I like about Happify?

This app was actually recommended to me by a friend. I like that an app like this exists, and that it’s trying to help its user improve their overall well-being.

What I think can be improved?

I think the monetization strategy seems a little aggressive. I feel like if I didn’t pay for the Premium, I don’t actually get much from the app. Even though they say that their Premium is cheaper than hiring a life coach, it’s still a little steep for me.

The games and activities also feel a little to simplistic to be worth the price.

Links:

2. Pacifica

Pacifica is also an app that helps users manage their stress, anxiety and depression using tools based on CBT and mindfulness.

You also need to create an account and then you sign in. Unlike Happify, they don’t ask you any questions about your personal life.

The app will give you suggestions on some tools that you can use.

Everyday, you can set how you are feeling to keep track of your emotions. In Goals, you can set your goals, major and minor ones and you can also set how difficult you think it might be. You can also create a Hope Board that I suppose you can look at to feel better. You can also keep track of your Health. You can also meditate. You can also keep track of your progress on all of these fronts.

There are also tracks that you can follow, I picked whatever that is free. They are more like lessons in an audio format and then it suggests some activity that you can do.

One activity is for Reframing your thoughts. I also learned about this is in one of the online classes I taken on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Here is an example one of the thoughts that has been bothering me lately and reframing it really helped me understand that I’m not that bad and I will have a future.

Pacifica also has a community for peer to peer support and it’s presented in the form of discussions and chat groups. You can submit posts and people can comment on them. You can also join the chat groups and chat in real time.

Pacifica also allows you to find a therapist or connect your own therapist. I think it’s encouraging you to use the app in conjunction with your existing therapy.

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Pacifica is also monetized with a subscription based Premium model.

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What I like about Pacifica?

I really like the overall aesthetic of the app, it looks very clean and modern. There is also a lot going on. Like Happify, I wouldn’t pay for the Premium model. But I feel like even without the Premium, I was already able to access a lot of activities and able to track different aspects of my life.

What I think can be improved?

You know when sometimes apps have too many features that some just gets lost in the mix? The first few times I used it, I didn’t even realize that there was a community.

In terms of the Tracks, to be honest, the one I tried, in terms of the lessons, was a little dry. I don’t listen to audio books or pod casts, because I’m a visual person, so listening to lessons doesn’t really work for me. But I do appreciate the activity part of the lessons.

Links:

3. Remente

Remente is a more goal oriented app for self-improvement.

You sign up and then you choose what aspects of your life you want to focus on.

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It then gives you some suggested goals, but you can also just create your own.

Remente has four main parts: Assess Life, Rate Mood, Set a Goal and Plan My Day. Aside from those it also has a bunch of Resources, mostly paid of course.

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You can assess different aspects of your life, such as Finances, Friends and Social Life, and Fun and Recreation. They intend for you to do this on a daily basis.

You can also rate your mood. They also intend for you to do this one on daily basis.

So I already talked about goals. So in order to really put your goals into action, they encourage you to plan your day.

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And finally the resources. Unlike Pacifica that presented them in audio format, Remente presents them as text. Once again there are some free ones, but most are paid.

They also have shorter courses called Boosts. It’s also just text, but much short text.

Once again, this app is also monetized through the subscription-based Premium model.

What I like about Remente?

I don’t hate it.

I like the goal suggestions, they were really helpful in pinpointing exactly how you can reach a major goal. In terms of the major goal of saving money, it really showed me step by step on how to reach that goal.

What I think can be improved?

I barely use it though. Between Pacifica’s audio lessons and Remente’s text ones, I can’t really tell which I prefer more. Or maybe neither. I don’t think I’ll pay for a Premium though. Without Premium, you can still use most of the parts just fine, it’s just when it comes to Resources.

Links:

4. Moodpath

Moodpath is an app to help you keep track of your mood.

You open the app and then it will ask you some questions about your mood. They expect you to do this 3 times a day, everyday.

It keeps track of your mood and provides statistics about them.

It also provides information about where to get treatment. The idea is that after tracking your mood for 2 weeks, you will be able to judge if you need to seek treatment and then you can show your Moodpath to your therapist.

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It also provides some resources about depression.

What I like about Moodpath?

It’s very simple and easy to use. Compared to Pacifica and Remente, I prefer the way information is presented in Moodpath, with text and pictures. I also like the style of the pictures, it’s really cute.

What I think can be improved?

I think it’s good that it focuses on just one thing, and as it is, it’s pretty good. I think I should get used to using it more.

Links:

5. SuperBetter

SuperBetter is an app that helps you increase resilience. This is also available in a website, but I only tried the app.

This app has been developed with experts from Stanford, UC Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania, and Ohio State University Medical Research Center. For each element of the app, they provide the science behind it, even linking journal articles and research.

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It operates on the idea that you build your resilience by doing tasks and then you can level up and such. So there are Power-ups, Quests, Bad Guys, Allies, Future Boosts, and it also keeps track of your Achievements. There is also an Activity page that keeps track what what you have done. If you have friends or Allies who also use the app, they can like and comment on it.

Power-ups are some activities that you can do in real life, like Chug a Glass of Water. These activities are supposed to make you feel better.

Quests are well, quests, you know what those are.

Bad Guys aren’t actual Bad Guys, they are things that you might find hard to accomplish, like getting out of your bed or The Sticky Chair.

Allies are you friends and, I suppose, the peer element of this app. But I don’t know anyone else that uses this app.

Future Boosts are more like long term goals or things that you are hoping to accomplish in the next two weeks.

Then there are Achievements. I don’t have any Achievements yet, mostly because I barely use the app.

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What I like about SuperBetter?

I like how evidence based the different activities are and how they make an effort to explain it to the users.

What I think can be improved?

I know about this app and I had it for a while now, but I never really used it, because I think the gamification and the digital level and achievements that I get for real life tasks wasn’t motivating enough for me. They did mention that building resilience takes work and its a conscious effort that you really need to put in.

Overall the app looks pretty plain, I think if it incorporated more of the RPG element with maybe a virtual avatar that represents digital and in real life me, maybe I’d get more into it. While another app, Habitica, which I will talk about in a bit, does that.

Links:

 

6. Habitica

Habitica is an app that incorporates RPG elements in helping you with your daily tasks and accomplishing your goals.

You sign up. You can also login with Facebook or Google.

Since it’s RPGish, you can need to create your avatar. I like how in Extras, they also included wheelchair.

Next, you can choose some areas of your life that you want to work on and it will give you some suggestions.

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There are 3 types of tasks: Habits, Dailies and To-Dos.

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Habits are well, habits. They can be positive or negative. If you accomplish good habits, you can points and if you did bad habits you lose points. So my habits are: Sleep for 8 hours and Meditate, and they’re both positive.

The next one is Dailies, which are things that you are supposed to do every day. So with Dailies, if you don’t accomplish them within the day, you lose points. I’m not sure if I should move the Sleep for 8 Hours and Meditate to Dailies, because I do want to do them everyday, but Dailies are pretty high stake.

The last one is To-Dos, which are exactly what you think it means.

And since it’s an RPG, you can get Rewards. So you can buy stuff to decorate your avatar. You can also set some real life rewards. So I added Cake, because Cake will be an awesome reward.

Aside from those main parts, there are also a few more stuff that makes the whole experience even more RPGish. So you have Stats, a whole bunch of Social elements and Inventory stuff.

The Social elements include a Tavern, Party, Guilds and Challenges. So you can chat, join parties and guilds, and support one another. You can also message other users.

You can also take part in some Challenges.

Lastly, the Inventory, where you can buy all sort of stuff, even pets!

Habitica is monetized through Gem in app purchases and subscriptions.

Also, interestingly, the source code for the app is open source on Github.

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What I like about Habitica?

I literally just talked about how I prefer this RPG with avatar type of gamification compared to the one in SuperBetter. It’s cute, and seeing your virtual self get better and have better gear, motivates me more.

What I think can be improved?

I think it has a lot going on as well, especially on the social side, which can be a little confusing. But other than that, pretty good.

Links:

 

7. Mood Gym

Mood Gym is a website that is like an online self-help book that provides you with skills and tools to manage anxiety and depression. It’s also based on concepts from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

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I have personally been using this website quite a lot and following the Modules.

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The Modules are a combination of lessons, quizzes and activities that you can apply in real life. It’s very easy to follow and the information are presented in a varied way, so it’s not too boring.

Moodgym is delivered free of charge in Australia, which I currently am, so yeah. While in the United States, you can get organizational subscriptions.

What I like about Moodgym?

I learned a lot from the modules and the tools really helped me. I like the way information was presented.

What I think can be improved?

I’d like to have a version of this website as an app, so it can be even more accessible. Also maybe make it available internationally.

Link: https://moodgym.com.au

 

8. This Way Up

This Way Up has a lot of courses about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, depression, anxiety, etc. It has a website and a bunch of apps.

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In the website, you can access all the courses, some are free. So I only go to try the free ones. Most are paid though, and it’s paid individually.

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The courses are presented in the form of a comic, which sometimes tells the story of a fictional character and how the character goes through for example, coping with stress, and you follow them through out their journey. They also provide techniques and resources that you can use.

 

While for the apps, there is an app for each course, and they are all paid. Oh and they aren’t cheap, so I didn’t get to try them.

Their idea is your clinician would recommend you to take the courses and supervise you through them. But you can also just take it by yourself as self-help.

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You can also take anxiety and depression quizzes as a self-assessment.

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What I like about This Way Up?

I think it’s a convenient way to access information, because it’s online or on the apps. I suppose, compared to a psychologist or psychiatrist, it’s cheaper. Also it’s developed with St. Vincent’s Hospital and UNSW, so it’s backed by research.

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What I think can be improved?

The comic style doesn’t work so well with me, especially when it’s presented as individual images and seeing one lesson is composed of 80 something slides overwhelm me. I also think the art style of the comics can be done better, like the one in Moodpath.

 

Link: https://thiswayupclinic.org/

 

9. My Possible Self

My Possible Self is an online self-help tool for depression, anxiety, etc.

You need to sign up. There is a website and apps. But I couldn’t access the apps, because it wasn’t available in my country.

When you login, there is a feed, that shows some blog posts and facts about mental illness, tips, inspirational quotes and some suggested activities.

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There are 3 main parts to the website: Moments, Tracking and Modules.

Moments are kind of like a diary, where you can add a moment in the form of text and images, and you can assign a mood to it.

 

Tracking is meant to keep track of your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, CBT stuff.

Before you can start tracking, you need to take an assessment, then it will give you some recommendations of things you should focus on.

Unfortunately, Tracking is behind the paywall, so I didn’t get to try it.

There are different Modules available, some are free, most are paid. So I tried a free one about Anxiety. The way the information is presented is a bit similar to Moodgym, with text of information, some case studies and activities that you can do.

 

My Possible Self is also monetized through subscriptions.

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What I like about My Possible Self?

I like the cutesy aesthetic of the website. It’s pretty clear and presented well.

What I think can be improved?

Without getting the subscription, the website is actually pretty limited. I wish I could access the apps and try them out as well.

Link: http://www.mypossibleself.com/

 

10. ReachOut Orb

ReachOut Orb is an interactive game for teaching well-being to Year 9 and 10 students.

In the game, you enter a world where a negative force known that drained color from the world and you must return color to the world. So you go around the world solving this Pacman like puzzles, talking to people and solving their problems.

I like how it tries to teach well-being in a more metaphorical way. Especially when you are helping the people, it actually introduces techniques that you can apply to improve your well-being. The dialogues are also quite funny.

I also think the graphics is really cute and the game looks really polished.

The website also comes with additional resources for teachers.

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What I like about ReachOut Orb?

I’m not really its target audience, but I still finished the game in one sitting and really enjoyed it. I think the idea behind such a game, paired with Teacher’s Resources, is really good to help students.

What I think can be improved?

For some reason, it isn’t available on Android, and I’m an Android user.

Link: https://schools.au.reachout.com/reachout-orb

 

That’s it!

And that concludes my post about the different apps and websites that can help with your mental health. A lot of the apps in this post have similar features, but present the same information in different ways.

I think it depends on how you process information, maybe you like reading text or prefer listening to it or reading comics.

A lot of these apps are focused on tracking, and it depends on what motivates you. Maybe you don’t even need an app and can just keep track using a notebook.

So that’s it for me for now. For comments, suggestions, and if you have other apps that you think I should check out.

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Apps that can help with your mental health [Part 1]

Apps, Review

I haven’t written app feature or review posts in a while. Even though I use the term app, I will also include some websites.

I’ve been working on my own platform but I’m taking longer that I expected because of my own personal issues.

So in the mean time, here are some that are pretty great. There are two general types of apps, consumer apps that are based on peer to peer support, and apps aims to help you cope with mental illness and improve your overall well-being.

For Part 1, I’ll be focusing more on peer to peer support apps.

1. Talk Life

The first on the list is Talk Life, it’s a social network for you to get help and give help.

In the app you can post your stories. You can make your post private in your diary or public, so people can comment on them.

They can also send you virtual gifts of encouragement.

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You can specify your trigger warnings and when a story that is potentially triggering shows up in the feed, it’s hidden but you have to option to view it if you want.

The app is monetized through native ads that will show up in the feed, but you can pay to remove them.

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The developers of TalkLife are also collaborating with researchers from Microsoft Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University to better understand and predict self harm, with the aim to create meaningful interventions.

They also recently won the People’s Choice Awards at the Digital Agenda Impact Awards (which is actually how I found out about the app).

Talk Life is based on peer to peer support and its benefits for better mental health. Their website also provided links to to research from Mind, Nesta and University of Nottingham.

What I like about Talk Life?

I really like the idea behind the app and the idea of having a community that helps one another. It is however, important to emphasize that it is not a crisis support community.

If users are feeling suicidal, it is very important that they seek professional help. The app also includes information on help line numbers.

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The app also takes content moderation very seriously.

I also really like the visual aesthetic, especially the purple color scheme, of the app.

What I think can be improved?

I don’t like that the ability to sign up via Facebook or Google, also the personal identifying characteristics in the user registration process, such as full name and birthday, ability to upload profile pictures.

Even though it’s a community, where I can theoretically share very personal stories of myself, I don’t want it to be personally identified by it. I am a very private person and I do curate what I post on social media and how I set my privacy settings.

Another mental health community, Big White Wall (which I will talk about later in this post) actually encourages you to pick a profile name that you normally wouldn’t use.

Links:

2. The Safe Place

The Safe Place is a minority mental health app geared towards the Black Community.

As an app it’s very simple, it contains predominantly text-based information for a variety of topics on mental health that’s more geared towards the Black Community.

It also includes some resources that link out of the app. It also has a group forum that links to a Facebook Group.

The app is monetized through a Donate button.

What I like about The Safe Place?

I think it’s very valuable to have an app that’s geared towards a minority group. Simply existing, lets the Black Community know that they aren’t alone.

I’m personally from a different minority group, I’m ethnically Chinese, and I know that culture also plays a big part on our mental health in terms of our coping mechanisms or how open we are to acknowledging we have a problem and getting help.

What I think can be improved?

I think in terms of the way the information is presented. Forgive me when I say, more pictures. Also the app can be more interactive, such as in the assessment section, it can be presented more like a quiz instead of just a list of questions.

Links:

 

3. Big White Wall

Big White Wall isn’t an app, it’s a website. It is a digital mental health support service. It encourages anonymity, so you can express yourself freely and openly.

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There are a few aspects to the website. It has a social network element in the form of clinically-monitored peer support forum called Talkabout and the concept of Bricks (Big White Wall, get it?).

 

It also includes a variety of tools and information for self-management.

It also has one-to-one live therapy available using audio, webcam and instant messaging. I haven’t tried it though, because it’s an additional service.

Jen Hyatt, the CEO of Big White Wall, says  “They can provide access to services from the comfort of the home. Many people find it hard to access services because of geography, because of mental ill health, because of physical disability. We’ve also found that, in the 50% of cases that do get to a GP, they’re not able to guide mental health problems adequately.”

Big White Wall is actually available through a subscription based model, but it teamed up with several institutions to provide its service freely. I was able to access Big White Wall thanks to my previous university. They also received a £2 million investment from Big Society Capital.

What I like about Big White Wall?

I like the level of care and the amount of research the website conducted.

The press release of Big White Wall on Impact Ventures UK, talked about how there are thousands of unverified mental health apps encompassing mindfulness, CBT, mood tracking, peer support and more. Jen Hyatt says this about them, “I have no tolerance for developers who try to avoid taking responsibility for the safety of people online. We have a responsibility to our users – it’s the only route to a good, rigorous resource. We have support staff 24/7. We have data analytics, tests we use to screen for tests, and a clinical governance handbook that has protocols for issues like suicide ideation, self harm and other crises. They can be escalated to a clinical psychiatrist within two minutes.”

Link: http://www.impactventuresuk.com/press-releases-and-news/big-white-wall-one-of-four-nhs-apps-found-to-be-clinically-effective/

What I think can be improved?

I think the layout of the website looks a bit dated.

 

Link: https://www.bigwhitewall.com/

 

4. Project Semicolon

Project Semicolon is a movement for suicide prevention started by .  It is based on the concept that “a semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life”.

It also a community with a website and apps.

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First the website, you can create an account and you can share your story. People can comment and share your story.

It also provides information about different mental illnesses and how you can get help.

They also have a shop where they sell merch, such as t-shirts and temporary tattoos (in case you don’t want to get a real one). They also have a Donate button.

The app is not too different from the website actually. But it’s based more on support groups and getting real life support from one another through chats.

The app is 100% free, and it doesn’t contain ads or any in app purchases.

They also have another app specifically for survivors. I’m not its target audience, so I didn’t download it.

 

What I like about Project Semicolon?

I think the impact the movement has is quite impressive and I truly admire their efforts. They are also a non-profit organization.

I have been contemplating getting a semicolon tattoo, but haven’t gotten around to it.

What I think can be improved?

The website is WordPress based, so when I signed up using my usual email address, it automatically linked with Gravatar with my face as a profile picture. Like what I mentioned before with Talk Life, I prefer to be anonymous.

The app is actually quite confusing, I don’t know how to post stories or Insights. I also had to sign up on the app using my mobile phone number, which I didn’t really appreciate. I didn’t actually try to reach out to anyone or join any of the groups, because for some reason I felt hesitant.

 

Links:

 

5. Elefriends

Elefriends is an online support community managed by Mind, the mental health charity.

It has a website and apps (unfortunately my Google Play Store is no longer set in the UK and I couldn’t download them).

You can sign up to the website using Facebook or your email address.

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I feel like I’ve been repeating myself again, but in Elefriends, you can also share your stories, read and comment on other people’s stories. And since it’s run by Mind, they have Ele handlers that moderate the community. You can also report stories.

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You can also send private messages to other users and share hugs.

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It’s basically an adorable version of Facebook.

Elefriends is generously supported by the Cabinet Office’s Social Action Fund.

 

What I like about Elefriends?

It looks adorable.

What I think can be improved?

I think its pretty good as it is. It also includes links to Mind for more information about mental illness, where to get help etc.

Oh right, I wish the app will be available worldwide instead of just UK.

Links:

 

6. Ok2Talk

Ok2Talk  is also an online support community, but it’s managed by NAMI or the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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It’s geared more towards teens and it’s a Tumblr based site.

You can submit stories and read and comment on other people’s stories. You can post text, images or videos. Also since it’s Tumblr based, you can also heart, reblog and share on Twitter and Facebook.

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They also review every submission before posting it on the site.

They also provide information on where to get help.

 

What I like about Ok2Talk?

Since it’s geared towards teens, they take extra care on monitoring the content and reviewing all the submissions.

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What I think can be improved?

I like it, no complaints. I like how they make use of Tumblr and all its functionality.

Link: http://ok2talk.org/

 

7. Not Ok

Not OK is a digital panic button that will connect you to your support network via text, call, even including your GPS information. Their goal is to make it easier for people to reach out for help when they need it.

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It was created by Hannah Lucas and her brother because she needed something like it when she needed help. She wrote an op ed on Teen Vogue about her experience with POTS and having depression and why she created the app.

Their website also provided links to peer support research from MHA, NAMI and DBSA.

The app is monetized through a monthly subscription.

I couldn’t download their app because it’s not available in my country, so I didn’t have a chance to try it out.

 

Links:

 

And that wraps up the apps for Part 1. Most of these apps and websites are actually quite similar, and I couldn’t really say if one is better than the other. But it’s all based on the community, so try them out and see which peer support group you feel more comfortable in.

Remember, you are not alone.

Even more learning about Psychology and Mental Health

Classes

I can’t recommend “The Science of Well-being” course enough. You should all definitely check it out.

Link: https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being/home/info

I just finished the course, and I’m challenging myself to a 4 week rewirement challenge. Knowing all the information and putting it into practice is another. So the 4 week rewirement challenge will help me put theory into practice and see if it will help me become happier.

So far, I challenged myself to meditate, exercise, make social connections, sleep at least 8 hours, appreciate beauty and savoring at least once a week. Okay, the exercise and social connections part comes with my current job, so that part is easy ish. I never had problem sleeping, so that’s also in the bag.  But meditation is something that I just started doing and it’s quite relaxing.

I downloaded Insight Timer, which is full of guided meditations.

Link: https://insighttimer.com/

 

Aside from the Well-being class, I’m also trying out Moodgym.

Moodgym is like an interactive self-help curriculum based on concepts of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and you can learn skills to help prevent and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Link: https://moodgym.com.au/

 

Udemy had a sale last Mother’s day and I bought 2 CBT courses by Libby Seery. I find the pacing a bit slow, but the information was very useful.

Links:

 

I also signed up to a few more free courses on Coursera on positive psychiatry.

Link: https://www.coursera.org/learn/positive-psychiatry/home/welcome

If you are based in Australia (which I am now, as of the moment), you can also some free courses on This Way Up. As opposed to talking head videos, the lessons are presented in a series of slides with characters and talk bubbles like a comic book.

Link: https://thiswayupclinic.org

I really want to do a Graduate Certificate in Psychology or Mental Health, but unfortunately I don’t have the finances for it.

 

Code like a Girl Rebel Presentation

Dev, Games

A few weeks ago, I gave a talk about my journey, growing up in the Philippines and then finding my place as a women in tech working in the games industry.

And here is the presentation I gave, which was in a Pecha Kucha style and much harder than I thought.

And here are some photos from the event, it was hosted at PWC in Adelaide, which has a lovely view of the city.

 

Thank you Code like a Girl for organizing the event and the opportunity for me to share my story.

Learning about Psychology, Depression from a Compassionate View, and The Science of Well-being

Classes

Recently, I started learning about Psychology through some wonderful (and free) online courses. As someone who don’t have a background in Psychology, I think they were very useful and they helped me gain a deeper understanding of myself and my own struggles.

Links to the courses:

 

One of the most interesting things I learned from the Foundations of Psychology is how depressed people tend to credit positive things to others and negative things to themselves.

When I was studying and struggling in Computer Science, I honestly believed that the only reason I passed the course was because of God’s miracle. It never occurred to me how it could actually be the result of my studying or working hard, because those were some dark times. I enjoy programming now, but I used to hate it. I used to feel like such a failure and moron. Whenever things go wrong, it’s because I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough.

I was stuck in that type of thinking for a long while. I guess, I still think that way now. But I’m trying to change that.

I am named one of GameIndustry.biz 100 Future Talent. This isn’t a humble brag, I’m just stating a fact. After I found out I actually broke down and cried, because I didn’t think I deserved it. I went to the beach and I watched the sunset, and it was beautiful, but it didn’t stop the thoughts in my head telling me that “I’m not good enough”.

I have impostor syndrome and I think that’s because I doubt myself a lot. Also, as a female in the tech and game industry, sadly, people doubt you all the time. I find myself questioning a lot of times if I was just a diversity hire, and some of the other guys I work with also vocally wondered about the same thing about me. Did that sentence make sense?

The Psychology class helped me identify the stressors in my life, and it also introduced ways to cope with stress, and that’s what I’m trying to do now.

Depression: A Compassionate View taught me something very important and that is to be kind to yourself. I need to be kind and be forgiving to myself. Think of myself like I’m talking to a friend who needs help. It also introduced some ways to identify negative thoughts and a plan on how to reflect, rationalize and challenge them.

One of the challenges is to write a compassionate letter to yourself, first start by writing down something that you feel inadequate about, and then you write a letter from the compassionate “other” person, imagine you are writing this letter to your friend, and finally read the letter and feel the compassion and let it sooth and comfort you.

This reminds me of a scene from “The Help”, where the maid is telling the little girl that she is kind, she is smart and she is beautiful. I think we need to spend more time telling ourselves these things and let it sink in.

Finally, I just started the Science of Well-Being class, and for the self-assessment, we are instructed to take some quizzes to measure our happiness, as well as our character strengths. It was also recommended that we try to use our strengths through a series of activities.

I took the quiz and my top 5 character strengths are:

  1. Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence
  2. Gratitude
  3. Creativity
  4. Love of Learning
  5. Kindness

I’m actually quite surprised with the results. Creativity and Love of Learning is something I am aware of and sometimes take pride in. While I think my Christian upbringing really influenced my other strengths.

I recently gave a talk about my journey in the tech and games industry, and I realized later on, is that on the slides where I talk about my achievements, I always preface it with, “I’m lucky” or “I’m fortunate”. I think this goes back to what I mentioned before, I credit every good thing that happens to me to God and to the wonderful people around me, and I have immense gratitude for it, which is good. But it also takes away my efforts from the achievement, if that makes sense. I suppose I need to have a balance.

While Kindness really surprised me. I never really thought of myself as kind, I thought for the longest time that I’m actually quite selfish. I think I’ll try to practice more Kindness and see what happens. But also as I’ve mentioned before, I think I also need to be more kind to myself.

Links:

I still have a few weeks more for The Science of Well-Being, we’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep you guys updated.

Harnessing the Power of Empathy Games for Mental Health Awareness

Dev, Games

Finding and creating a supportive mental health community while developing games

I have been a game developer for the past 8 years. But I worked in game studios and I programmed whatever my company told me to.

But I never made my own game on my own.

As part of my Masters by Practice for a degree in Video Game Enterprise and Production, I had the option to make my own game.

I can work with a team, but I chose not to, even though I never made a game all on my own. By my own, I mean, I do code, art, design and production. Why did I chose to do that? It’s not because I think I can do everything on my own. It’s because I don’t want to let anyone down.

You see, I have depression. I struggle to wake up every morning, my mind won’t rest at night. So my classmates think that I’m lazy, but it’s more complicated than that.

I met so many amazing game developers at conferences and they talk about how they just took the leap, quit their job and made their own game. I never took a leap before, because I was too afraid.

But now, the confines of school gave me the safety net to finally take a leap. Also a strict deadline and a Masters degree on the line gives me a very good reason to just do it.

One advice people give writers is to write about what they know. And I wondered if the same can be applied to making video games. Boen Wang says “What can you learn about a person through a screen? What can you learn about a creator through their work?”

So I decided to make a game about depression, even though it’s something that I don’t normally talk about. I normally don’t talk about it because it’s hard for me to tell people that I’m not okay. I wear a smile every single day, because I thought that is what is expected of me.

But it’s okay, not to be okay all the time.

I didn’t want to make a game that only features my own voice. So I made a project on HitRecord and asked for other people for their stories. And reading other people’s stories made me realize that I’m not alone. Also knowing that other people have gone through the same thing and have beaten it, gave me hope that I can too.

Working on the game and writing development blog posts, allowed me to be honest and be vulnerable, to show a side of me that I’ve never been able to before. It gave me the medium to finally open up the conversation about mental health with my friends and the people around me.

It took me more or less 4 months and I made a game, which I called “Depression Simulator”. It is a point-and-click game that simulates the everyday life of someone living with depression, where even the most mundane and menial tasks become a challenge.

And then I graduated with Distinction from my Masters degree.

But I didn’t want to stop there.

I realized that there are more stories to tell and more conversations about Mental Health that needs to take place.

That is why I approached my friends and together we are making a web platform called “MuniReality”, where people living with mental illness can share their stories and have them transformed into interactive games. The games will be be built around comments and contributions from the community.

But we can’t do it alone, we also need your help.

 

Watch my Developer Diary:

 

 

 

We just launched an Indiegogo Campaign!

Dev, Games

Please fund our campaign! https://igg.me/at/munireality/x/17690597

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What is MuniReality?

MuniReality will be a space where people living with mental illness can freely share their stories without fear of judgement. In turn, these stories (which can be shared in the form of writings, drawings, videos, songs, or poetry…) will be transformed into games.

Disclaimer: Mockup of MuniReality Website
The games will be built around and modified based on comments and contributions from the community. People can contribute characters, suitable music, background noise, items, pictures, voices, and other parts to complete a game.

Why Mental Health Awareness?

According to the World Health Organization, around 450 million people currently suffer from mental illness, making it the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide. But even so, more than half remain untreated. Stigma and discrimination are still the main reasons why people choose to keep it to themselves, as well as people around them not believing it is a “real” illness.

But mental illness is real. Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Eating Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, PTSD, OCD, Schizophrenia…. These are all serious and painful conditions, and it is important to make more people aware of this.

By making games from personal stories, we hope to generate interest about mental health that would not otherwise be achieved by simply telling people to care about it. We believe that the games will be able to better communicate the issue to more people because it is visual, interactive, and the games will be shared by the people whose stories they contain.

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Please fund our campaign! https://igg.me/at/munireality/x/17690597

BIG List of Incubators, Accelerators and Funding Opportunities

Dev, Games

After talking to people from the industry and attending conferences and listening to inspiring talks, I sort of want to continue pursuing my pet projects but I also need to feed myself.

Anyway long story short, I want to give myself a few months to try to see if I can either secure funding or find some creative ways of feeding myself, hence, I have started this list.

This is a work-in-progress list, so if you have any to add or remove, corrections, questions or suggestions, please contact me here or via social media (@purplelilgirl).

 

For each of the programs, I will try to answer the following questions:

  • How much investment is provided (if applicable)?
  • What else do they provide (if applicable)?
  • How much equity is taken (if applicable)?
  • How long is the program (if applicable)?
  • Where is it based (if applicable)?
  • How much does it cost (if applicable)?

 

So without further ado…

BIG List of Incubators, Accelerators and Funding Opportunities

 

1. Game Founders

  • How much investment is provided? $25k per founding team (minimum of 3 people)
  • What else do they provide? Mentoring for your team to improve their business and game quality skills by over 60 top industry mentors, weekly pitch practice, playtesting, field trips to successful game studios and at the end of the program, demo days where you will get the chance to pitch to our global network of investors and publishers.
  • How much equity is taken? 9% stake of your company
  • How long is the program? 3 months
  • Where is it based? Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 

2. Carbon Incubator

  • How much investment is provided? They provide 3 tiers: Tier 1- Incubation, Tier 2- Publishing and Tier 3- Funding, which may be eligible for up to $50k.
  • What else do they provide?The package can include: mentorship from industry veterans, development services, legal & accounting services, PR & marketing, sponsorships, publishing.
  • How much equity is taken? They do not ask for equity in your company. In exchange they’ll ask for 10-30% of the game’s net revenue, depending on the selected service tier, with funding/marketing investments being recouped first.
  • How long is the program? Throughout the entire project up to the game’s launch.
  • Where is it based? Bucharest

 

3. Core Labs Game Accelerator

  • What else do they provide? Weekly workshops, deliverables,  mentorship, valuable publisher/partner connections,  demo opportunities and more to prepare you for the challenging world of game development startups.
  • How much equity is taken? 5% revenue share of your game and optional 2% equity in company.
  • How long is the program? 6 months
  • Where is it based? online

 

4. Indie Fund

  • How much investment is provided? Flexible budget
  • How much equity is taken? Repayment – Once the game is released, you first pay back the investment and then share 25% of the revenue, until we double the initial investment, or until 2 years after the initial launch date, whichever comes first.

 

5. Pixelles Game Incubator

  • What else do they provide? Workshop series designed to help ten women (cis/trans) make their first game.
  • How long is the program? 6 weeks
  • Where is it based? Ubisoft Montreal’s Fun House, Canada

 

6. Dutch Game Garden

  • What else do they provide? A series of trainings that focus on business aspects of game development.
  • Where is it based? Utrecht, Breda and Twente in The Netherlands.

 

7. The Family

  • How much investment is provided? Over €500K in exclusive deals. This includes the largest deal with Amazon Web Services in Europe (€100K) as well as deals with IBM, Facebook, Paypal and Github.
  • What else do they provide? Educate entrepreneurs, build an infrastructure to empower them and build a privileged access to smart investors.
  • Where is it based? Paris, London and Berlin.

 

8. Disney Accelerator

  • What else do they provide? Investment capital, access to co-working space at Disney’s creative campus and mentor support and guidance from top Disney executives, entrepreneurs, investors and other notable business leaders from the entertainment and technology communities.
  • How long is the program? 3 months
  • Where is it based? LA, US

 

9. Startup Sauna

  • How much investment is provided?  Teams can select from a grant of 1000€ or free accommodation during the program.
  • What else do they provide? Accelerator program with themes including finding focus, understanding your customers, finding the right product-market fit and go-to-market strategy, HR/team, legal and fundraising, to name a few.
  • How long is the program? 7 weeks
  • Where is it based? Helsinki, Finland

 

10. Eurostars

  • How much investment is provided? Eurostars adopts a decentralised funding procedure. (for more details, please check their website)
  • How long is the program? 36 months or less

 

11. Transfuzer

  • How much investment is provided? £5k
  • How long is the program? Summer
  • Where is it based? UK

 

12. UK Games Fund

  • How much investment is provided? £25k
  • Where is it based? UK

 

13. Creative England – Greenshoots

  • How much investment is provided? Investments of between £50,000 and £200,000. £1 for £1 of private match funding to any investment received.
  • What else do they provide? Enrolment to the ID@Xbox Programme for Xbox One Development Kits. Access to Windows 10 devices for testing purposes (Subject to availability and at the sole discretion of Microsoft). Bespoke technical guidance and support directly from Microsoft. Though the Bizspark Microsoft programme all companies selected for the Greenshoots programme will receive select Microsoft tools and services for free. Dedicated marketing support from the team at Xbox. 
  • How long is the program? 18 months
  • Where is it based? UK

 

14. Creative England – Gameslab Leeds

  • How much investment is provided? £1000-£5000
  • What else do they provide? A series of group masterclasses.
  • Where is it based? Leeds, UK

 

15. Designer Fund

  • How much investment is provided? $100k-$1mm
  • What else do they provide? Build and educate design teams through Bridge. Bridge is a professional development program that connects experienced designers with top startups and their community in SF.
  • Where is it based? San Francisco, US

 

16. Avanto Accelerator

  • What else do they provide? Workshops, mentoring and work space.
  • How long is the program? 8 weeks
  • Where is it based? Oulu, Finland

 

17. Yangler

  • How much investment is provided? $50k–$200k
  • What else do they provide? This interactive and hands-on program for ambitious entrepreneurs is designed to help you discover $1B insights and build businesses around them.
  • How much equity is taken? 7–10%
  • How long is the program? 16 weeks
  • Where is it based? online
  • How much does it cost? $99/month

 

18. London Venture Partners

  • How much investment is provided? Initial investments in pre-seed and seed rounds only.

 

19. TechStars

  • How much investment is provided? $100,000 convertible note
  • What else do they provide? Techstars resources for life, mentorship, connections to the Techstars Network of over 5,000 founders, alumni and mentors globally, 400 perks worth over $1M, office space for 3 months, etc.
  • How much equity is taken? $20,000 in exchange for 6% common stock.
  • How long is the program? 90 days
  • Where is it based? Multiple locations all over the world (for more details, please check their website)

 

20. Y Combinator

  • How much investment is provided? $120k
  • What else do they provide? Work intensively to get the company into the best shape possible.
  • How much equity is taken? 7%
  • How long is the program? 3 months
  • Where is it based? Bay Area, US

 

21. 2Tons

  • What else do they provide? Full access to the gram team’s expertise, knowledge, and resources – from solving technical problems, to the incorporation process, to game marketing, to promotion and advertisement support.

 

22. NYU Game Center Incubator

  • How much investment is provided? Each core team member will be provided a living wage over the course of the program, subject to their full-time work at the Incubator and continued satisfaction of Incubator milestones.
  • What else do they provide? Developers are provided a structure to address the marketing, legal, financial, and other business challenges of launching a successful commercial game.
  • How long is the program? 3 months
  • Where is it based? New York, US

 

23. Minc Game

  • What else do they provide? Mentoring from world experts in game development and other relevant fields, office space, access to our global network of mentors and investors, and matchmaking when necessary, etc.
  • How long is the program? 12 months
  • Where is it based? Malmo, Sweden

 

24. Incuvation Games

  • How much investment is provided? Investment of up to $5,000 cash, although not always and could be higher.
  • What else do they provide? Access to experienced management from AAA game producers, a custom website, forums, and social media presence, Free pre-release, and launch marketing services, plus press releases, etc.
  • How much equity is taken? A negotiated revenue share and profit split if game generates positive revenue commercially. (for more details, please check their website)
  • Where is it based? LA, US

 

25. Roblox

  • What else do they provide? Helpful advice and mentorship as they embark on their professional video game development careers.
  • How long is the program? 5 months for the Incubator and 3 months for the Accelerator
  • Where is it based? San Mateo, California, US

 

26. Creative Europe Game Development Fund

  • How much investment is provided? The total grant awarded to each project can range from €10,000 to €150,000 and must be 50% match funded for the
    concept and project development narrative-led video games. (for more details, please check their website)
  • How long is the program? The production phase of the submitted project must not be scheduled to occur within 8 months from the date of application.
  • Where is it based? Europe

 

27. Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Fund

  • How much investment is provided (if applicable)? £5,000 up to £3 million
  • How long is the program? Up to 5 years
  • Where is it based? UK, Republic of Ireland, some low- and middle-income countries

 

28. Global Top Round

  • How much investment is provided? Up to $100k
  • What else do they provide? Development, Publishing and Launch Support
  • How much equity is taken? 5-10% Equity and 10% Net Revenue Share
  • How long is the program (if applicable)? 9 Months Game Development and Launch Support

 

29. Mass Challenge

  • How much investment is provided? Startups do not receive any upfront funding. 10-20 startups at the end of the program share $1 million in cash awards at the MassChallenge Awards Ceremony.
  • What else do they provide? World-class mentorship and training, free office space, access to funding, media and more.
  • How long is the program (if applicable)? 4 Months
  • Where is it based? The Boston, Lausanne, and Jerusalem Accelerator programs run from June to October, while the London and Mexico City programs will run from August to December.

 

30. UNICEF Innovation Fund

  • How much investment is provided?  $50-90,000
  • What else do they provide? Access to the UNICEF Innovation Ventures team, which provides technical assistance in emerging technology areas. The UNICEF Venture Fund taps into a network of mentors and advisers who can help you develop your business model and strategy. 
  • Where is it based? UNICEF’s programme countries

 

31. Sirius Programme

  • How much investment is provided? A total package of approximately £55,000 of investment and support. Approximately £35,000 in seed funding to develop your business, from business angels and professional investors. 
  • What else do they provide? Support in obtaining a UK visa for members of the founding team that require one. Services with a market value of approximately £20,0000 including incubation in one of 12 regional centres relevant to your business provided by E-Spark, Europe’s largest incubation provider.
  • How much equity is taken? 10% equity
  • How long is the program? 1 year with approximately 30 days of dedicated training for each Sirius cohort delivered in London by the Accelerator Network, the leading private sector supplier of accelerator training in the UK.
  • Where is it based (if applicable)? 12 regional centers

 

32. Ignite Accelerator

  • How much investment is provided (if applicable)?  £25,000
  • What else do they provide? Mentorship, accountability, peer-to-peer learning, investment and preparedness for follow-on investment.
  • How much equity is taken (if applicable)? 5% of ordinary share equity in your company and a further 1% ordinary share equity to a shared pool, The Founders Cooperative.
  • How long is the program? Minimum of 6 months.
  • Where is it based? UK

 

33. Digital Business Academy

  • What else do they provide? Rewards for completing courses with Digital Business Academy.
  • Where is it based? Online

 

34. Infinite Deviation

  • What else do they provide? Funding to support your game, project management guidance and regular check-ins from a dedicated Game Producer, and promotional support from Google Play.
  • How long is the program?  October 2017-May 2018
  • Where is it based? US

 

Also check out F6S for more Accelerators, Funds and Investors.
Soomla also wrote a post about Accelerators for Indie Game Developers back in 2015. Some mentioned may not be active anymore, but do check that out too.
Gov.uk also has a List of Approved Seed Competitions which supports applications for a Tier 1 visa for entry to the UK (which is more applicable to me than the rest of you).

 

Bonus: Co-working Spaces

 

1. Playhubs

  • What else do they provide? Mentorship, masterclasses, introductions to investors and by building a community of forward-thinking industry professionals.
  • Where is it based? Somerset House in London, UK
  • How much does it cost? £400 / month (for more details, please check their website)

 

2. Arch Creatives

  • Where is it based? Leamington Spa, UK
  • How much does it cost? £200 / month but also has flexible pricing (for more details, please check their website)

 

3. Indies Workshop Seattle

  • Where is it based? Seattle, US
  • How much does it cost? $350 / month (for more details, please check their website)

 

4. Stugan

  • Where is it based? Stockholm, Sweden
  • How long is the program? 2 months

 

 

To be continued…